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Economy

Meet The Frenchman Behind Lending Club, The 'Google Of Finance'

For Renaud Laplanche, it all began with a credit card statement that seemed all wrong. Now, after helping to bring banking into the digital era, it's time for a major IPO for his SF-based firm.

Lending Club founder Renaud Laplanche
Lending Club founder Renaud Laplanche
Jérôme Marin

SAN FRANCISCO — Wearing a simple shirt and jeans, Renaud Laplanche has already adopted the Silicon Valley's dress code. Having moved there 10 years ago, the 44-year-old Frenchman runs Lending Club, an American pioneer in online peer-to-peer money lending that is preparing for an imminent initial public offering (IPO).

"I feel a lot closer to Google's philosophy than to the banks'," the entrepreneur says. And it's highly symbolic that the headquarters of the company he founded in 2006 are located in San Francisco's South of Market, the neighborhood where other Silicon Valley successes such as Twitter, Zynga, Airbnb and Uber are located. It's a far cry from the nearby Financial District, where, for example, Wells Fargo — America's biggest bank by market capitalization — is based.

Eight years after its launch, Lending Club is expected to win ultimate recognition in the next few weeks with its IPO on the New York Stock Exchange. On Dec. 1, the company disclosed an amended prospectus in which it indicated it was hoping to raise up to $796 million on the basis of a maximum value of $4.2 billion.


Lending Club's SF HQ — Photo: lulubelle05 via Instagram

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Hide-And-Seek Of Drone Warfare, A Letter From Ukraine's Front Line

A member of the Ukrainian Armed Forces writes his account of the new dynamic of targeting, and being targeted by, the invading Russian troops, as drones circle above and trenches get left behind.

A Ukrainian military drone operator during a testing of anti-drone rifle in Kyiv.

Igor Lutsenko*

KYIV — The current war in Ukraine is a game of hide-and-seek. Both sides are very well-stocked with artillery, enough to destroy the enemy along many kilometers. Swarms of drones fly through the air day and night, keeping a close eye on the earth's surface below. If they notice something interesting, it immediately becomes a target. Depending on the priority, they put it in line for destruction by artillery.

Therefore, the only effective way to survive is to hide, or at least somehow prove to the drones your non-priority status — and avoid moving to the front of the 'queue of death.'

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In general, the nature of this queue is a particular thing. It may seem to be a god, but is instead a simple artillery captain's decision of when to have lunch, and when to fire on the house where several enemy soldiers are staying. It's just a handful of ordinary people (observers, artillerymen) deciding how long their enemies will live depending on their own schedule or the weather, the availability of ammunition or if they're feeling tired.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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